This week we will be reading through James 4. (Again, work obligations prevented a mid-week email.) This chapter generally falls into three sections.
The first section (vv.1-10) concerns the passions and how the passions such as envy, jealousy, covetousness, and desire separate us not only from others but from God. Our desires for what others have cause us to fight and wage war against each other. These same desires cause us to pray for the fulfillment of the desires which remain unfilled because we pray for the wrong things. As you read through these verses ask yourself what causes you to have envy and jealousy. And how do these causes affect how you pray or relate to God?
In the second section (vv.11-13), James warns against slander and judging another member of the community. Both of these actions, slander and judging, relate back to the teachings in Leviticus 19:15-18 which ends with the instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself.” To slander or to judge is to violate this basic commandment. Additionally, as James says in v.13, to judge another is to set yourself up as the lawgiver and judge, which only belongs to God. See, Rom. 12:19. Or as Jesus says, for the judgment you pronounce, so will God judge you. Matt. 7:2. As you look at these verses, reflect on when and how you judge others. How do you set yourself up over others thereby usurping the role of God?
In the final section (vv.13-17), James chastises those who make plans without due consideration for God or for their mortality. This teaching may be based upon Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) or the classical notion of memento mori “Remember Death.” In reading through these verses, ask yourself how you plan your future. Where is your trust placed?
Finally, the one thread that comes through in all of these three sections is that of humility. When we count others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3) then there is no room left for envy or jealousy, nor for slander or judgment, nor for total self-reliance. It is only in our imitation of Jesus’ humility can we hope to abide with each other and with God as James teaches.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken noodle soup, ginger bread, and hot apple cider. Discussion about 6:45. Today is the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem, and therefore we will have a celebratory Evening Prayer Service in lieu of Compline. Hope to see you here.
All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves.St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833)